Skip navigation

Training Periods for Cross-Country Skiers

Training Periods Part 1

Thu, Jul  1, 2010 - By SkiPost

From's newsletter. Add yourself to the newsletter mailing list at

Transition or Recovery Phase (Spring)

Recover from the physical, mental and emotional stresses of training and racing. Complete rest is fine, but active rest is better.

Begin building into your modes of training.

Base (Summer)

Base training is so called because it is the base upon which later phases of training are built.

Aerobic endurance is the number one component of cross-country ski racing, and it is the component of ski racing which takes the most time to develop. It is the primary aim of the base training period. Example: 2hour rollerski or run split between level 1 and 2 or a 3hourr bike on hilly terrain split between level 1 and 2. Please note: about 80% of all training is endurance training. The rest is strength, intervals and races, etc.

General: Power and strength-endurance are built on max strength. General strength develops overall tendon and muscle strength necessary to support latter forms of training. General strength is the focus through the spring and summer. Example: after building up to weight training for 5-6 weeks, include some ski specific high weight and low rep work.
Specific: Specific strength becomes more a focus later in the summer and into the fall once a solid base of general strength has been established. Example: Endurance session using only double pole over gradual terrain.

Most intensity should be below the lactate threshold early in the summer. Anaerobic training such as speed is good, but hard aerobic and anaerobic intervals should be kept to a minimum early on. Example: 2x10 minutes at 5 bpm below LT with 2 minutes rest between intervals. Start with 1-2 sessions a week.

Technique and speed:
Speed training during the base period should not be done at a hard intensity (short bouts of speed with full recovery are recommended) and should be oriented toward using correct movements at race speeds - not at moving at an unrealistic pace. Example: Incorporate 10 20second bursts of speed into your endurance training.

Pre-Competition (FALL)

Training becomes quite specific to the motions and intensity of ski racing. Aerobic endurance is still the primary focus, but the means to develop it have become more specific and more intense.
Training volume levels off or even decreases slightly to allow for the increase in intensity. Most of the training volume is aerobic endurance training - low intensity training of medium to long duration. Example: Rollerski or run almost exclusively in level 1.
General Strength: General strength takes a back seat to specific strength. Max strength is the general strength focus in this period (for only 4 weeks). Strength endurance is the primary concern of a skier, but power and max strength cannot be neglected. Example: circuit using body weight exercises and more ski specific motions. Include some fairly ski specific max-strength exercises as well.
Specific Strength: Rollerski specific strength sessions are the primary forms of strength training and should be predominantly endurance based. Skiers should also incorporate plyometric, explosive jumping exercises into their strength routine during the pre-competition phase. Example: 10x 200meters single pole, 10x200meters double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.
During the Pre-comp phase, duration and intensity of "intensity" training should reach levels similar to competition. High intensity (Vo2, above threshold) intervals are used. This type of training must be built up to, to be effective. Example: (LT) 2min, 3min, 5min with equal recovery, times 3 at LT. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 5x5min with half recovery at 95% of max. (target heart-rate will not be meet until the second interval). Each interval should take you the same distance.
Technique and Speed:
 All training is technique oriented. Speed training is a great way to train the anaerobic system, but also to learn to ski relaxed and with smooth technique at a challenging pace. Example: 10to20x20seconds incorporated into an endurance session